An Introduction to Cuban Coffee

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Real estate developers in Miami know that in order for a local residence to have any sort of geographical clout, it helps for it to be located within easy reach of great coffee—Cuban coffee, to be precise. Hardly anyone drinks American drip coffee in Miami, the U.S. hotspot for café Cubano or cafecito, a Cuban-style espresso drink that was born when espresso machines first arrived in Cuba via Italy. Café Cubano is no ordinary espresso. Thanks to the existence of multiple incarnations, almost always featuring the sugar that’s so plentifully grown in the Caribbean, you can get a Cuban caffeine fix in a variety of ways, from hot to iced or short to tall. Understand the differences, and you’re sure to find a beverage that suits your taste at any time of day.

The basic types of Cuban coffee drinks are:

  • Colada Considered the default of Cuban coffees, this is 3-6 shots of pure espresso brewed with sugar. It’s almost always served with extra demitasse cups for sharing. And you’ll want to share, trust us.

  • Cortadito This drink is closest to an Italian cappuccino. It’s a standard espresso shot that’s sweetened and topped with steamed milk.

  • Cafe con leche Similar to a latte, this is probably the mildest of all the Cuban coffees as it is made with unsweetened espresso poured into a cup of steamed milk. For an extra-rich concoction, these can be made with condensed milk (café con leche condensada or cortadito condensada).

Of course, if you really want to fit in, you’ll observe the city’s “official” coffee break time of 3:05 p.m. and head to one of the following cafes for your treat. Don’t worry, it’s easy to remember: 305 is also the city’s area code.

El Rey de las Fritas

Multiple Locations

A greasy spoon where you can enjoy a classic frita (Cuban hamburger) and other specialties along with a full complement of Cuban coffees, this retro-style counter place also runs a food truck that can be found around town.

Tinta Y Cafe

Village Portico, 268 SW 8th Street, Miami

Tinta Y Cafe is a funky little place in Little Havana near Brickell that sports a walk-up window. Here you will find all the usual suspects plus a colada chiller and the house specialty, el pecado, a “layered coffee” made with sweetened condensed milk, Cuban espresso, evaporated milk, and whole milk.

La Carreta

Multiple Locations

This hacienda-style chain of restaurants is known for classic Cuban dishes such as ropa vieja and picadillo. It also serves some of the best Cuban coffees, including a cortadito with evaporated milk.

David’s Cafe Cafecito

919 Alton Road, Miami Beach

Breakfast plates, Cubanos (pressed sandwiches made of ham, cheese, and pork), and churrascos (grilled beef) are the standbys at this popular South Beach cafe. David’s Cafe Cafecito moved to its current location after a 40-year run on Collins Ave. Of course, its name gives away its signature offering, which you can get from a walk-up window or enjoy inside.

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